Being Sociable

Posted by Alan Newland on 26 Jun, 2013

At BrightLemon, we work with leading charities, universities, education and heritage organisations that are putting their social supporters right at the centre of their PR and marketing strategy.

The directors and managers of communications, PR, digital, engagement, customer service, brand and sales in leading organisations are beginning to feel the pressure, if they haven’t already, to get out of the silo mentality of their individual marketing discipline.

They are beginning to see the potential of social customers and supporters as central to the way they engage new support and turn ‘mere’ visitors to their website or ‘mere’ donors to their charity into ardent advocates and endorsers of their products, services and missions.


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But why?

Thanks to the technology that has put social media networks at the forefront of internet usage, they are learning from leading business brands that they no longer control the messages and conversations going on around them.

A customer’s ‘word of mouth’ – which to be honest, has always been the most effective way of endorsing a brand or trashing it – now has an exponential reach to the very ends of the earth and back again.

Claims that companies make about their products are under immediate and penetrating scrutiny, and the judgments about them are no longer the domain of elitist ‘reviewers’ in newspapers, on radio or TV. They are you and me – the bloggers and social media addicts on Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress and Twitter.

And in an economic climate like the one we have now, brands are squeezed from many sides. Not only has the expectation of customers risen and brand managers are having sleepless nights about how a social media spat might trash their product or their organisation’s hard-earned reputation, but companies are looking to cut costs and be more efficient – especially in the areas of marketing, comms, pr and advertising.

This is where your social supporters can come into their own.

They can:

  • endorse your brand and advocate your mission and values through blogs and discussion forums
  • support your sales by generating prospects and leads by sharing
  • market your products and services by ‘liking’ them
  • promote and pr you via the tags, keywords and web analytics

Your customers and supporters might start by finding you on google, but as sure as the Catholicism of the Holy Father they’re not going to stop there. More and more they are going to forums, blogs, communities, social platforms – of all kinds – to interact with each other and pass the word about you, your brand and its values.

In fact, brand values are the very stuff of the social web. They are literally its meat and drink.

And when people gather to ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ together, something very fundamental is going on… they are:

  • Affirming
  • Endorsing
  • Validating

each other… your products, your services, your mission… and you.

While a billion (apparently) of us are using social media like Facebook to be sociable around brands, there’s an awful lot more quality interaction and in-depth interaction companies can get from managing a social platform of their very own.

  • Yes, yes, yes…100,000 Facebook ‘likes’ is not be sniffed at. But how much better if you knew:
  • who those 100,000 people were;
  • what their profiles, preferences, customer insights are;
  • what their knowledge of your product is;
  • what their decision-making processes are;
  • etc. etc. etc.

In short, with your own social platform, you can find that out and own the data yourself, rather than our ubiquitous ‘friend’ Mr Zuckerberg.


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The brands that are really leaping ahead are those that are creating the social tools to manage a community platform of their own – who put in place the processes to manage their customer and supporter experiences and who put in place the structures to share them with each other. In other words, those that optimise the social experience of their brand values.

As customers and supporters become more socialised – through the cohesive and community generating activities of:

  • discussion forums;
  • blogs;
  • shared interest platforms;
  • Q&As;
  • user-generated knowledge bases;
  • and yes… even Facebook & Twitter integrations

Then their experience becomes more satisfying.

They ‘trust’ each other on and through your platform.

They ‘enjoy’ each other on and through your platform.

They ‘endorse’ each other on and through your platform.

This kind of peer-to-peer validation and support is a central tenet of the new doctrine of online marketing and communications. While social media platforms help customers and supporters connect up with each other, social ‘community’ platforms connect your customers and supporters for a real purpose.

That ‘real purpose’ takes on a life of its own when they start to interact with a community  – and because these customers and supporters might know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of your product or your mission as well as you do – the vibrancy of their contribution as a customer becomes the passion of a community advocate.

Creating a community and being sociable gives your customers and supporters a reputation to live up to.